How one man got ahead of the Feds

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The Independent US

The photograph that showed federal agents bursting into Lazaro Gonzalez's bedroom to seize his nephew Elian could hardly have been more dramatic: an armed federal agent confronting a young man holding a frightened, screaming child.

Yesterday, as it appeared on front pages around the world, Alan Diaz, a freelance photographer working for the Associated Press in Miami, described the moment he took the picture.

When the raid began, Diaz was on the lawn next door to the house of Elian's great-uncle. Then the federal agents arrived. "All of a sudden hell broke loose," said Diaz. The photographer jumped over the fence in front of the Gonzalez home and walked into the house. "A family friend grabbed me and he said, 'Go to the room, go to the room'," Diaz said. But Elian wasn't there. The photographer then knocked on the door of Lazaro's bedroom, and his wife, Angela, opened it. Elian was in a wardrobe, held by Donato Dalrymple, a fishermen who had rescued him at sea last November. Diaz said: "[Elian] was crying and he was asking me, 'What's happening?' and all I said was, 'Nothing's wrong'. I mean, what was I going to say?"

Seconds later, federal agents entered the room and seized the boy. Elian continued to cry and ask, "What's happening?" Diaz said: "They went to the closet and I shot [the photograph of] them grabbing the baby."

At a news conference in Washington, Janet Reno, the Attorney General, was asked whether the picture showed the use of excessive force. She said: "[Photographs] show exactly what the facts are and if you look at it carefully, it shows that the gun was pointed to the side, and that the finger was not on the trigger."